NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- At its annual convention, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today awarded Valley Electric Association, Inc. (vea.coop) with its 2012 National Community Service Award for Energy Efficiency. NRECA, the association that represents the nation's 905 electric cooperatives serving an estimated 42 million people in 47 states, annually seeks out and recognizes cooperatives that have rendered exemplary service to their communities.
VEA's innovative domestic solar water heating program earned the accolades for the Pahrump, NV-based co-op. "This award recognizes cooperatives that are working to provide their member-owners with the most energy efficient systems and practices available," explained Gabe Snow, NRECA's award program coordinator. "It's also about how the co-op positively impacts the community it serves through the outreach, community development and economic benefits associated with its energy efficiency program."
"On behalf of the entire VEA board, we are so proud of our Ambassadors and our membership and what they contribute to our community every day in so many ways," said VEA board member Shiela Rau in accepting the award.
A short video on VEA's domestic solar water heating program was produced by NRECA and shown in advance of the award.
The highlighted benefits to the communities served by VEA flowing from the co-op's solar water heating program include:
- Job creation with the installation of hundreds of solar water heaters, along with job training opportunities
- A local economic stimulus: the savings on water heating can be spent elsewhere in the local economy
- Many members were able to take a 30% federal tax credit on the installed cost of their system, keeping more money local
- The program reduces the amount of expensive peak power VEA needs to purchase, reducing pressure on rates
- The local tax base is improved by sales on local materials used to install the systems
- Environmental benefits, with more than 3,000 pounds of CO2 reduction attributed to each system
Solar water heating could save the nation $8 billion a year on energy costs, according a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report. VEA's program overcomes several barriers that impede the greater utilization of the technology elsewhere in the U.S.; in addition to offering its members "no-money down," zero percent financing on residential solar water systems, the co-op delivers savings to its members through economies of scale on purchasing, installation and quality control.
The cost to heat water for a typical family's laundry, dish-washing, showering, bathing, etc., is the third largest home energy expense (after heating and cooling costs), according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. More than 700 of the approximately 16,000 members residing in VEA's 6,850 square service territory in southwestern Nevada now have solar water heating systems in their homes.
Glenn English, retiring as NRECA's CEO after 19 years of service, noted in presenting the award to VEA, "Valley Electric Association tapped an important energy resource—its members and its Ambassadors—to develop an innovative, cost-effective solar water heating program that has been described as the most successful in the continental U.S." English added, "VEA's program has generated significant benefits for the communities it serves as well as being another great example of the power of the cooperative business model."
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SOURCE Valley Electric Association, Inc.